Excerpt from Nature’s
by Juliette de Bairacli Levy
The health of every family begins with the mother. She is the tree
from which the healthy fruit must come. All primitive peoples recognize
this, and there are numerous simple laws which the mother is taught
to follow to ensure easy and almost painless childbirth, and the production
of healthy, stalwart infants who vigorously drink their mother’s
milk and sleep well.
From the first moment that conception is known, the mother should plan
a daily regime for building the mental and bodily health of the child,
who for nine months will be growing within her and sharing her thoughts
and food, for better or worse.
A happy mind and gladness in the fulfillment of motherhood are the
first requirements for mental health in both mother and the forming
child. A vast number of people, especially in modern times, are barren,
lonely. Pregnancy should be a daily song of triumph and thanksgiving
in a woman’s mind and heart. It is good to be in true kinship
with Nature, with the budding fruit trees, the wild flowers and herbs;
to understand the meaning of the songs of the nesting birds, why the
brown swifts flute as they travel in their chosen farthest regions of
the skies; and to share the contentment of the animals in the pastures
awaiting the coming of their young ones.
The safest ages for women to have children are said to be eighteen
to twenty-five years old. But some of the most memorable children I
have met—distinguished by intelligence, beauty and powerful health—were
born to women in their early forties, triumphant and joyful births at
a time in life when childbearing was considered not very likely!
Motherhood. What maturity there is in that word; all those round "O"s.
Motherhood! It is the blossoming of female life, and indeed it is far
more: It is the survival of the family. "Ye are blood of my blood,
and bone of my bone," it says in the Bible. It is beautiful the
way family features and character are passed down. The same eyes, hair
colors, the special voice, even the talents: a blending of the parents.
The mother has an obligation to do all possible to keep herself healthy,
and to raise healthy children, otherwise the family will perish, with
all its special characteristics and talents.
Maternal devotion is beautiful, and often heart-rending. Have you heard
of Jewish mothers en route to their death in Nazi concentration camps,
holding out their babies to persons on railway platforms, beseeching
total strangers to take their children and save them? And, similarly,
in the recent horrific wars in Yugoslavia, Muslim women flung their
children onto departing army trucks to save them from approaching massacre,
knowing that reuniting was very unlikely. Mother love is an inspiration,
and children never forget this.
Each night beside my bed,
My mother sang so tenderly and low,
There are no songs like hers of long ago.
Arthur L. Salmon
Of all the basic rules for healthy birth, the first one must be the
necessity of daily physical exercise. In the Western world it seems
that pregnancy is the one time women choose to exercise less than usual—and
the modern woman takes scarcely any hard exercise in her daily life.
"Toil hard, walk far," say the Gypsies and Bedouin Arab women,
when asked their recipe for ensuring healthy pregnancies and good condition
of their bodies. I have lived among them and can say that they do what
they recommend: Their mare and she-camels are ridden until the time
of birth, and the pregnant women work hard in the fields and around
their firesides almost to the hour of birth. Most of them manage their
childbirths at home without the need of clinics or hospitals.
Half the ills of modern people are caused by lack of exercise. All
members of the animal kingdom bend, leap and run, if they have limbs.
Only humans seem content to stay stationary with rigid limbs.
During the prenatal months a woman’s body must be kept slim and
hard in order to prevent formation of a big, burdensome child which
will, from its unnatural size, make for difficult childbirth and will
ruin beyond recovery the figure of the mother. It is helpful and encouraging
to attend classes for pregnant women to learn useful exercises to keep
the body supple and in good shape.
In pregnancy, natural exercise is always best, such as fast walking,
running, swimming, horse riding, hill climbing. If this cannot be managed
during the week, it can be confined to weekends. When natural exercise
is not possible, the simple bending exercises taught in school can be
used. Or one can practice dry swimming strokes, lying on a rug on the
of exercise in pregnancy means slack muscles, excess fluid around the
child, swollen limbs and often varicose veins. It was noted in World
War II that women porters, who got much exercise in their railway work
and lifted heavy weights as a matter of course, had very easy pregnancies,
although it was commonly believed at the time that lifting heavy weights
could cause a miscarriage. I always felt a great need for hard exercise,
such as tree felling, axing and sawing, as well as daily swimming in
summer and winter. In both my pregnancies my babies were so small that
people never knew I was pregnant, and when I carried my new born baby
in my arms, they wondered where I had obtained the child!
All my life I have kept dogs, and greyhounds are my favorites; above
all the Afghan hound. They possess the speed of the wind in their feet.
They greyhound breeds are known for the ease with which they produce
their young. The females run and hunt up to the day they whelp their
litters. Through the eight weeks of pregnancy their bodies keep so slim
and lithe it is often most difficult to tell if they are in whelp or
not, and this remains a mystery until the hour of birth.
Sleep must come after exercise, and exercise must follow sleep. It
is well proven that the best hours of sleep are the natural ones, which
means from dusk to dawn. The hours between dusk and midnight are worth
twice as much as the hours from midnight to dawn. Monks and nuns who
take a scientific interest in sleep, wanting to be awake during the
hours of greatest mental alertness, usually sleep at dusk and awake
at around three in the morning. Too many of the human race, under-exercised
and overfed, seem to exist in a stupor of sleep taken at the wrong hours.
Another healthy rule is daily bathing. All creatures seek water (even
owls! I was surprised to see how well my pet owls like their bath),
and there is a reason for this. Water keeps the skin tissues in good
tone and relieves nervous tension, as well as ensuring simple cleanliness.
Gypsies like to pull their wagons close to running water. Apart from
the practical benefits of being close to water, it is considered good
for their pregnant women, for their peace of mind and gladness of heart.
There is nearly always a pregnant woman in a Gypsy family, for the Children
of Nature follow the ways of Nature, and every two years a new baby
is born to the majority of mature women—one year allotted to create
a child and one year for the provision of abundant and healthful breast
milk. As Gypsy men often have two wives, there is then a new baby in
the family every year. This ensures that there are many children.
Mohammet gave the Gypsies fertility above that of all other peoples.
It is said that Gypsies saved the Prophet’s life when he was dying
from an unknown poison. They brought him a strange herb, today called
rue (Ruta graveolens), which is known to surpass every other plant as
an antidote for poisons of all kinds. For this, Mohammet promised the
Gypsies many children. Rue also has the lovely name of "The Herb
Cold bathing is natural and advisable. Hot bathing is unnatural and
enervating, but a weekly hot bath is needed for cleansing the skin,
as so many people have to endure a grimy environment in this modern
world. Bath water can be improved by aromatic substances, such as drops
of pine resin and natural flower extracts, or crude plant material such
as pine needles, eucalyptus leaves, slivers of cinnamon bark or the
flat heads of elder blossoms. Put the plant material in a square of
cheesecloth; place the tied-up square into the hot water while the bath
is running, and keep this in the water during bathing.
Air and limited sunbathing of the entire body are also powerful health
aids in pregnancy. Sunbathing should follow, not precede, water bathing,
for water will remove the vitamins deposited in skin tissue following
a sunbath. The early and late hours of the day are the most beneficial
for sunbathing. The feet should face north, if possible, and the head
and soles of feet should always be covered. If work is not being done
and rest is managed during the sunbath, then cool green leaves or strips
of cucumber peel can be placed over the eyes: very soothing.
Vegetable oil applied lightly to the body helps to increase the benefits
from the sun, and in pregnancy it aids suppleness of breasts and the
abdominal area. Oil should not be applied undiluted to the skin, but
rubbed on from a large swab of cotton previously dampened in plain water.
Water with a few drops of vinegar added is better, and buttermilk is
excellent instead of water.
Why use monotonous plain oils, when a short spell of work can turn
such oils into aromatic lotions? It is easy to collect fragrant flowers
and leaves, pound them to a pulp in a mortar and pestle, add them to
the oils, and infuse them in glass jars, well-stoppered, in sunlight
or in a barely warm oven for several days. When hot sun is available,
it is preferable to stand the bottles in a container of sand. This attracts
and holds the sun heat. I use at least two tablespoons of crushed plant
to every pint of oil, plus a teaspoon of vinegar, to help break up the
The flowers and leaves I use most often to scent my oils are lemon
balm (Melissa officinalis), lavender (Lavendula Offininalis), rosemary
(Rosmarinus officinalis), honeysuckle flowers (Lonicera japonica), southernwood
(Artemisia abrotanum), wild meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), woodruff
(Galium odoratum), elder blossoms (Sambucus species), and briar roses
(rosa canina). Such give healing powers, as well as sweet odors, to
question of what and how to eat during pregnancy is immensely important,
as we are what we eat. Daily, the food intake builds up the body or
destroys the body. All is dependent on whether vital, natural foods
are eaten, or unnatural, devitalized ones. By the time they are ready
for pregnancy, most women know what is good for them to eat and do not
need such instruction either from books or individuals. Therefore I
shall only give a few basic rules which I was pleased to learn from
such a great medical writer as Professor Edmund Bordeux Szekely, whom
I knew; from Dr. Douglas Latto, the gynecologist whose personal advice
greatly helped me; and lastly from the so-called "simple people,"
the Gypsies, wandering Bedouins, Berbers and others who have no need
of doctors in childbirth, as I, too, had no need.
The simple rule to use when choosing foods is to take only natural
things. Cereals, with the exception of sweet corn and barley and wheat,
have to be prepared before they can be digested by man. Corn, cut fresh,
can be eaten raw, and barley needs only to be soaked in a covering of
water for twenty-four to forty-eight hours to be palatable and digestible.
Sprouted wheat can be eaten raw, so can flaked oats which are a basic,
chosen food of mine. All other vegetarian or dairy foods can be eaten
natural and raw, direct from wild countryside, garden, orchard and dairy—or
from the greengrocer’s shop.
However, I am sure that during pregnancy it is advisable to control
intake of cereals so as to prevent a heavy-boned child. The heavy bones
can be made after the child is born, the mother providing bone building
elements in her milk. I have followed this rule for myself and for the
animals that I have brought through many pregnancies. Always easy birth
was the result.
It is healthful to take only a few kinds of food at each meal; too
large selection causes indigestion and overeating. Adults should not
eat anything heavier than fruit before midday. That is, avoid a heavy
breakfast. It has been proved by examination of human urine that the
adult human body is cleansing itself of the by-products of the previous
day’s food until midday of the following day. If more food is
taken, the cleansing is checked.
One day per week on fruit juices or fruits only is desirable. Any digestive
upsets in pregnancy can be treated by a short fast on fruit or vegetable
juices. Carrot juice is especially good.
Miscarriage is a tragedy. For women who fear it, perhaps because of
a previous mishap, Nature provides rock rose (helianthemum canadense)
to give strength to the reproductive system. It can be used nightly.
Make a tea of a heaped teaspoon of the flowers, fresh or dried, mixed
with a teaspoon of peppermint, in one cup of water. "Strength of
the rock," the Gypsies say of this herb.
Black currant berries are also used to prevent miscarriage. The berries
are taken raw when they are in season, or preserved as a jelly, syrup
or puree. Black currant leaves can also be used: fresh ones added to
salads, or the dried leaves can be added to other herbal teas and drunk
daily in the morning. I have saved many a cow threatening to miscarry
by feeding her large amounts of black currant fruits and leaves.
All primitive people fearing difficult childbirth have their remedies.
My personal choices, selected from the many teas, seeds and tree barks
which I have seen in use, follow. For an easy birth, mix together these
powdered herbs (which should be freshly ground, if possible, in a blender
or clean coffee mill): two tablespoons wild raspberry leaves (Rubus
species); a tablespoon each of wild rose hips (Rosa species), elder
berries or leaves (Sambucus nigra), and hawthorn hips, flowers or leaves
(Crataegus species); a half tablespoon of feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium),
a teaspoon dill seed and a quarter teaspoon of cloves. Pour 2 cups hot
water over two tablespoons of the mixture, steep several hours, keep
covered tightly. Strain, sweeten with honey, and take. A teaspoonful
in food or brewed into a tea can be taken throughout pregnancy or each
year for a few weeks as a general tonic.
To prevent morning sickness, drink a tea of ginger (Zingiber offininale)
with a pinch of gentian (Gentiana species), or a tea of peppermint (Mentha
piperita) and dill seed. Make these in the usual way, using dried herbs
instead of ordinary tea, and drink once a day. A stronger brew results
if the herb is put into cold water and brought almost to a boil. Leave
the brew to stand until tepid. In any case, and especially in pregnancy,
hot drinks should not be taken. No animal will touch liquids from which
steam is still rising. We would do well to learn from them.
The morning sickness which plagues many pregnant women is mostly a
body cleansing, to protect the forming infant from the toxins resulting
from faulty diet or from cigarettes’ nicotine, or simply to combat
the harm of overeating, a common error in pregnancy. Never, never, take
any drugs in pills or liquid form to quell morning sickness. Better
to suffer a little discomfort than to worry about, and perhaps have,
a deformed child as a result of taking such pills. A few pieces of candied
ginger, chewed slowly, will reduce painful vomiting. (Ginger is provided
on many ships to combat seasickness.) Honey is also helpful, as is peppermint.
To soothe the nervous stomach, Nature supplies lime blossoms (Tilia
species), lemon verbena (also called yerba Luisa) and garden sage, all
to be taken as teas. Sage, the chosen herb of Hippocrates, is, after
rosemary, woodruff and vervain, my favorite herb. A warm drink of sage
tea is a comforter for the entire body (and the soul!). Savlia simply
means "to save." It is a holy herb of the Arabs who strangely
call the herb Miriam, which is their name for Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Sweetening a brew of sage tea with honey increases its restorative powers.
I hope that women interested in natural birthing have never taken The
Pill. For any type of pill which sets out to confuse the normal rhythms
of menstruation and ovulation is harmful and dangerous and ought to
Also avoid all use of what is called genetic engineering. Such will
surely evoke the displeasure of God. And it must be remembered that
its roots lie in the terrible experiments performed on young Jewish
and Gypsy women in the Auschwitz concentration camp, and who were brutally
killed when no longer useful.
Many women find pleasure in cigarettes and alcohol, and suffer because
they are unable to give them up during pregnancy but know they are detrimental
to the child that they are bearing. When the urge for either comes,
one can try these tactics: Plunge the face into a deep basin of cold
water (that is my choice), or chew on bitter herbs (the Artemisias are
the best), or chew some spice (such as clove), or press one’s
face into a bunch of strongly scented flowers and remain therein for
awhile. (Better to spend one’s money on such flowers than on more
costly alcohol and cigarettes!) Ill effects of alcohol are much reduced
if milk is added to it, and I consider the flavor of the alcohol enhanced.
Legend says that women in pregnancy and childbirth have their protectors.
The Holy Mother Mary is said to come in spirit to every woman who is
in labor. The Greek goddess Artemis, known as Diana by the Romans, is
the protector of women in childbirth and of the newly born infant. Artemis
is also goddess of beauty, deer, and the moon. (The moon is very influential
on menstruation and female fertility in general.) A group of medicinal
herbs are named after her: Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), Artemisia
abrotanum (southernwood) and Artemisia vulgaris (mugwort). Used cautiously
(for they powerfully stimulate the central nervous system), each can
be of great help in pregnancy.
Wormwood gives general strength, is highly disinfectant and helps expel
worms. Its common name is Old Woman.
Southernwood strengthens the stomach and brain, and alleviates morning
sickness. Its common name is Old Man. I used it daily throughout both
of my pregnancies.
Mugwort is one of the most ancient of the childbirth herbs, widely
used in Asia, often as a steam bath which a woman squats over while
All Artemisias have silvery-gray foliage. A small sprig of any one,
added to the daily raspberry tea, prevents nausea.
Finally, "Man does not live by bread along;" there is a mental
side of pregnancy to be considered. The soul is great in the human body,
and it is mirrored in the eyes. Pregnancy is the time in the life of
every woman when the soul is exceedingly powerful in her body. The soul
needs food also: Time should be found daily for daydreaming and reading
beautiful things, and for giving praise to God and Nature. Time must
be found for care of the soul, or pregnancy will never reach its true
I think pregnancy is a wonderful time because of all the senses of
body and mind are enhanced. Sight, scent, hearing, thought, are all
more alert than normally. God and Nature arranged this. This is a time
of great creativity and also great danger. Body and mind must be keen
and alert to provide for and to protect the growing child, the child
who may be poet, prophet, or leader.
Before ending this chapter, which is a mixture of practical information,
odd facts collected on far travels, herbal medicine, legend, I want
to say that the results of practicing what I preach have been good.
I personally have tested all these prescriptions for many years. And
long before, for over fifty years, I have used these methods in veterinary
work, helping animals of all kinds, from mares and she-goats to the
miniature breeds of dogs. All animals which had a record of difficult
birth time or loss of offspring in the early months responded to a Nature
diet and herbal treatments, and amply proved the benefits of working
Minka Farouk writes from Holland: "Yesterday I attended an evening
for pregnant women. So good to see all those interesting, spreading
bodies! We saw splendid slides and films of deliveries at home. It was
so emotional to see those sweet babies coming into the world that almost
everybody was crying."
The biblical description of a woman is yet one of the best.
She riseth when it is yet night,
And giveth food to her household.
She examines a field and buyeth it,
With her earrings [sold] she planteth a vineyard.
Her lamp goeth not out by night…
She eateth not the bread of idleness.
However, in conclusion, I will add that one should not take pregnancy
too seriously. Give some time to dancing around. The embryo surely loves
the rhythm of its mother dancing! So, when the Piper of Dreams comes
by, enjoy his music, and waltz!
Susun Weed and Juliette de Bairacli Levy,
Upstate NY, Summer 2002
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